CC Outtake: 1964 Buick Wildcat – The Car Of Dorian Gray

A common fantasy is to be able to live in the world forever, not as an old man but as a young man in the prime of life. Twenty five years old for eternity. In our darkest moments, we may have wished that we could live in that state with moral impunity, free to do whatever we want to whomever we want for as long as we want. Oscar Wilde tackled these themes in his classic 1890 novel, which this car made me think of.

Ok, it actually made me think of the 1945 movie (one of at least 25 film or TV adaptations), since like most people, I’ve never read the book. I saw it when I was in high school, me being that odd teen who was fascinated by old black and white movies and watched them every chance I got. The movie obviously made an impression on me because I haven’t seen it since and I still remember it.

As unlikely as it may be, I ran into something of a doppelganger to the 1964 Wildcat that I wrote up last fall. Maybe you remember that one:



I declared it my favorite car of all the many hundreds I saw at Arizona Auction Week in January last year (alas I’m stuck in Texas and unable to go this year 🙁 ). It was remarkable both for its rare powertrain and even more so for its excellent condition: unrestored with original paint, interior and drivetrain despite not having especially low mileage (78k). One might reasonably ask how a car can manage to pass through many decades with a fair amount of use and yet be so well preserved. It seems kind of unnatural.

Perhaps the Wildcat’s owner struck a metaphysical deal of the sort Dorian Gray did in the story. Dorian has his portrait painted when he is an impressionable young man. At the artist’s studio, he meets a deceptively devilish older man who regales him with tales of the joys of hedonism causing Dorian to wish he could pursue the pleasures of the world forever, staying the same age as he is in the painting and have the portrait age in his place.



Dorian gets his wish and lives a life of indulgence, debauchery, and treachery. The picture not only absorbs age but also sins. Every terrible thing Dorian does over many years shows in the painting, becoming uglier with every wicked deed while Dorian physically remains young and immaculate.

What if the strange powers of mysticism would allow a similar dynamic to work for a car? You could buy a beautiful, special car and have a second one just like it made which you keep hidden in your garage. You then proceed to use your car without care or concern. You leave it outside all the time and never wash or wax it. You run into things. You habitually make jackrabbit starts and brake hard at every light. You never change the oil or follow any of the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual, which you never read. You drive it through snow and salt without even washing off the grime. You chainsmoke while driving.



Despite committing every sin of car ownership imaginable, your car is clean, looks perfect, runs great, and doesn’t even smell like cigarettes. Decades pass.



Meanwhile, the car in your garage looks worse and worse every year. The paint fades to the point it’s hard to even tell what color it was. Surface rust spreads all over the upper surfaces. Dents and dings prevail. Body panels become perforated with rust.



The engine belches smoke and the blown out exhaust sounds loud and nasty. The Wildcat 445 engine feels more like a 155hp 225c.i. Fireball V6 (new in the Buick Special that year). The carpet rots, the floorboard rusts through and the interior fades and cracks. It smells like a Soviet ashtray.



Odd lesions and rust holes break out all over the hood, while the rusty edge won’t even hold a trim piece on any longer. The windshield has more crack than the corner drug dealer.


The Picture Of Dorian Wildcat.


Perhaps you think after all these years a perfect car is your right and you can get rid of that deplorable heap taking valuable space in your garage, which is the only evidence of the terrible car owner you’ve been. You tow it to the crusher and watch it be destroyed with satisfaction, then walk back to the parking lot to drive home in your speedy, perfect Wildcat.



Only you find that it now is just like the car you destroyed. All the age and sins it took upon itself have settled right back onto your exceptional Wildcat.



You slowly, very slowly, drive home in a giant cloud of blue smoke, finally forced to drive the car you deserve.


photographed in Houston, TX January 11, 2024

Yes, even the dilapidated Wildcat is a special car, undeserving of the crusher! See my original 64 Wildcat article for the Wildcat story and links to other Curbside Classic Wildcat articles.